I was just getting into “Big Time” Canada goose hunting, meaning I could start to afford a spread of full body decoys and an enclosed trailer and nice shotguns and decent cloths; I demanded everything match. God forbid I own anything other than Mossy Oak Shadow Branch camo clothing, Bigfoot goose floaters, and Green Head Gear Fully Flocked Full Body Goose Decoys. I collected these items like Jay Leno collects cars.
But then one fine afternoon I had a spread of 85 decoys out in a field and during a dead part of the afternoon, I walked over the hill to my truck to fetch a diet coke and a pop-tart. When I came back I stopped on the hill and admired my spread. It looked like a post card….no really like a still shot; no movement.
Yes, I had a flag in mine and my brothers layout blind but the spread really looked a little, well statuesque. I do what I do when I have a hunting problem…. I talk to hunters.
I hit the chat forums and looked for what people did to add life like movement to their spreads. I mined a few ideas that made sense to me and over time I have added a couple of my own theories.
First I added some silhouettes. The good kind; antiglare, flocked heads and textured. Silhouettes add an optical illusion of movement to your spread. As the geese circle and change angles they see different amounts of the silhouette. It goes from a wide representation to invisible and then back. To the geese, especially those that are lower to the ground like Canada Geese, this provides an illusion of movement in the flock.
Next I use some windsocks. Frankly, I am using more and more of these. Wind socks have some of the affect of silhouettes and if there is any wind they will move from side to side and give a feeding wobble.
Nowadays my big spread will run approximately nine dozen full body decoys and four dozen Anser wind socks. I keep most of the windsocks on the upside of the spread and closer together than I put the full bodies. The Anser decoys have a more natural color then a lot of the wind socks I have seen. In addition, they have a unique “sideways” decoy that adds realism to the spread. I really like the look and so far, the geese have too!
This past two years I have run lesser and my full body decoys together. I like fully flocked decoys so both the full body and lesser are fully flocked. Mixed in together they give a very natural look of a large group of geese. Now, the truth is I moved out to Western Oregon a couple of seasons ago and here there are seven species of Canada goose. Three of the subspecies, including the largest group, are smaller than lesser Canada’s’.
Back when I hunted North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, I never really thought of adding smaller decoys to my spread. But, out here on the West coast “Cacklers” are the most prevalent goose and they are only slightly larger than a big mallard. They are also damn hard to get committed into the decoys.
When I am hunting the grass fields near my home I usually take a dozen full size full bodies and three dozen lesser and three dozen socks.
Finally I add some mechanical motion.
Last season, after a friend raved about them, I bought a Higdon Flapper Goose Decoy. A string pulled flapping wing decoy which mimics a goose stretching its wings in the field. Now I have seen these things in the catalogues for a few years and to be honest I thought they looked a little too gimmick for me. But let me tell you something; the action on these things is dead on! The first time I put it out in a short grass field here in Oregon last year I landed (for the first time) a flock of 150 Cacklers at less than 25 yards. Shooting an Over and Under Browning I only needed the two shots to take my four bird limit.
I was so impressed with this decoy I bought another one this summer to run in our big spread when I get to North Dakota this coming October. I will not only attract geese and hold their attention away from the blinds, it will give my brother something to do other than his calling (which sucks)…. So count that as two wins.
By stepping away from the “pure” approach and focusing on adding decoys which will best mimic real geese I have seen my success rate really climb.
So, until I see you in the field, be safe, be good, and BE LUCKY!